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SPECIAL REPORT: Dia De Los Muertos

Karina Bazarte dives into the history of Dia De Los Muertos and brings us this special report

IMPERIAL COUNTY, Calif. (KYMA, KECY) - Day of the Dead is a Mexican cultural tradition observed every year on November 2nd.

Recently it's gained more exposure in the U.S.

Beauty, power, and respect.

Dia de los Muertos, which translates to the Day of the Dead, is not only a celebration but the unity and connection between the living and the dead.

“Dia de los Muertos is a time to celebrate life, it's not a time to be sad, it's not a time to mourn the dead," explained Lizeth Legaspi, Camarena Memorial Library Manager.

“Dia de los Muertos has made me feel more connected to relatives that I had no physical connection with, more of an emotional and spiritual connection with them and I definitely think that is something I will continue doing for the rest of my life," stated Terry Partida Rodriguez, a community advocate.

Some believe on Dia de los Muertos, the spirits of loved ones reunite with their families, but how did this all start?

“It’s a Mexican and Indigenous tradition that dates back to about 3,000 years ago that the Aztecs believed in honoring the deceased ones and their ancestors so they created special rituals to honor them," said Legaspi.

The library manager at Camarena Memorial Library in Calexico said when the Spaniards came to Mexico they wanted the Aztecs to celebrate their beliefs which was “All Souls Day”.

She said the Spaniards celebrated All Souls Day on November 1st and 2nd.

“But the Aztecs did not want to. They wanted to continue to celebrate their tradition. So eventually, they kind of came together and they adopted November 1st as the day of All Souls Day and November 2nd as the Day of the Dead," stated Legaspi.

But what makes the two days different?

“So November 1st, we celebrate infants and children who have passed away and November 2nd is dedicated to the adults," said Legaspi.

The Aztecs had many different rituals such as La Catrina, which today we see many painted faces in her honor.

"La Catrina is the death. It’s the skeleton. So in Mexico, once again, since it’s not a time to mourn, it’s a time of festivities, they kind of mock death," explained Legaspi.

Another component is La Ofrenda which is an altar and on those altars, you'll find candles, water, pan de muerto, flowers like sempasuchils, and pictures of your loved ones.

A community advocate said he started making his own ofrenda when his dog of 12 years passed away.

“When he unfortunately died, I was like how can I make sure that I don’t forget about what he meant for me. And I know a lot of people might say it’s just a dog but for me he meant family," stated Terry Partida Rodriguez, a community advocate.

He said he started with only a small ofrenda but over the years it's gotten bigger.

“It’s grown from a little thing, a little small altar with cookies, a candle, and a picture to like so much bigger as you can see you know every year for some reason we keep putting more and more and more," stated Rodriguez.

He says having an ofrenda also helped him connect with his great-grandmother who passed away when he was about five years old.

“I never had the chance to truly get to know her but I still feel a connection that is why I wanted to put her up here and just be in remembrance of who she was and who she means to our family who she means to me, who she means to my mom, and you know to celebrate her not only in her life also celebrate her in her passing," explained Rodriguez.

Today, the new and old generations continue to gather at their loved one's gravesite during Dia de los Muertos.

Others stay home to honor those who are coming home just for one day.

"Honestly, this is what this holiday is all about, it’s bringing the family of our past and the family of our present together into a special moment," stated Rodriguez.

"It’s a way of honoring them into… To make sure we haven’t forgotten them and there might be other members of the family… Newer members of the family that didn’t get the meet that person so that is a way to keep the tradition."

Article Topic Follows: Special Reports

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Karina Bazarte

Karina Bazarte joined the KYMA team as a reporter in September 2022.
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